So, What Now? > ?

Since I’m not watching any of the pre Super Bowl mishmash of torrential bullshit being generated by ESPN and the like (although I did hear that Dick Sherman did say Peyton Manning throws like a girl or some shit) I’m of a mind to talk about the state of the Forty Niners. Think back to 3 years ago, and marvel at what has transpired. In January of 2011, the 49ers were a clusterf*ck of an organization. The team had numerous high draft picks and a talented defense, but could not play any kind of consistent offense and thus struggled to win. Aluminum Mike Singletary had been shown his walking papers, Mike Tomsula cemented his status as the Niner coach with the highest winning percentage in Niner history, and Young Jed was looking for a head coach.

In walks Jim Harbaugh, his Stanford coaches in tow, with an impressive track record of turning programs around in a hurry and laying down a solid plan for the future. In a dramatic turn of events, the Niners, with little training camp or practice time together, go 13-3 and lose a heartbreaking NFC Championship game to the NY Giants. Not bad for a 1st year coach. The 2nd year sees starting WB Alex Smith getting benched after recovering from a concussion in week 7. He never saw another start in a Niner uniform. It was a very bold move that was fraught with the potential to divide the team and lead to major problems. Colin Kaepernick of course lit the football world on fire and smoked the vaunted Chicago Bears defense on Monday Night Football. Season 2 of course ended up 5 yards short of the end zone in Super Bowl XLVII. This year saw a bit of a comedown for Kaepernick amid struggles around the red zone, lack of capable WRs, and Colin struggling with reads at times. And of course, another game that ended up 18 yards short of moving on to the Super Bowl.

So, 3 years, 3 NFC Championship games. A very enviable position that about 28 other teams would love to have. Problem is, we are 1-2 in those games with this current team and coaches. My question is, can this team as currently constructed win it all? The prevailing theory would seem to be an emphatic yes, but what is the issue at hand? What has stopped this team from getting over the hump? Is our quarterback too locked-in to the pre-snap design of a given play? Is there room for him to do a better job of reading coverages and looking off defenders? Is Kaepernick showing too much bravado by trying to force a pass past Dick Sherman to make him look bad? Will this be an ongoing issue with him? Were his struggles due to all the injuries to the WRs? Is the lack of a speed WR that big a deal?

How about the coaches? The lack of imagination in the passing game, and the year-long insistence to run out of the jumbo formation seemed to hinder the team at times. The chaotic scene of just trying to get a play off in time was a critical problem. Conservative red zone play calling, and lack of the killer instinct led to many close games. The red zone offense scored TDs 53% of the time. Good enough for 15th in the league. The run game worked against lesser opponents but stalled out against the tougher teams. The pass blocking was atrocious at times, and the passing game was all over the place. Are the coaches restricting Kaepernick’s reads? Still and all, 12-4 and another NFC Championship game. Yes, we have the pieces. Especially on defense.

How do we get over the top? Well, I think there needs to be a fundamental change in the passing game philosophy. While the run game appears to be a well-oiled maching at times, it was stymied by Seattle, Indy, and Carolina. When that was stopped, the Niners couldn’t respond with a passing attack that relieved the pressure on them. The passing game works sometimes, but it also can be maddeninly inconsistent. The biggest problem I have is that Jim Harbaugh has forgotten one of Bill Walsh’s tenets of a successful passing game. Put the quarterback in a position to make a successful pass on every attempt. This certainly wasn’t the case last season. When teams take away your run game, they WILL go after the passer. The 49ers did nothing to counteract incessant pass rushes. No screens, very few quick slants. No hot reads. No adjustments at the line. Just the same slow-developing 12 yard outs, and the occasional deep fade. They rarely gave Kaepernick an outlet when he was forced to break contain. The coaches wanted Colin to be a pocket passer, and seemed to want him to hang in the pocket longer, but all this resulted in were sacks. When he did start running more later in the season, it was very effective. So, I don’t think the coaches really know what to do at this point.

What I think they should do is start getting the team to pass protect better. Which means no more jumbo. All this does is let teams crowd the line. The base offense should be a 3 WR, one RB set. Quicker pass plays. Throw slants. Quick plays that get 5-7 yards on 1st down. How many 2 yard runs did we see on 1st down in the jumbo this year? 500? How many 3-and-outs were generated by shitty 1st down calls? If you go 2nd and 8 a lot, teams lick their chops. The play calling is lacking in imagination. Especially in the red zone. Good teams took Gore away (for the most part), and were able to focus on Kaepernick to force mistakes. Yes, he made them. He owns his part of that. But, again, giving him safer places to throw the ball will help in the long run.

So, yes, I think we need a new offensive coordinator. And Jim Harbaugh needs to buy into the fact that he needs to loosen the reins with Kapernick, and allow a more progressive passing game to flourish with a more forward-thinking OC (hello Chris Ault). The defense has been good enough these past 5 years to win it all. It has been the offense that has been lacking.

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About unca_chuck

Lifelong SF 49ers and SF Giants fan
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33 Responses to So, What Now? > ?

  1. unca_chuck says:

    Christ, how do these get so long? Sorry. Still and all, Kappy needs to progress to make this work. But the coaches can do much more to make his life easier. That’s my bottom line.

    I really hope the Niners are the ones to open the FA signing period with a Kappy deal. The longer they wait, the more it’ll cost. I mean, what will Alex Smith get? He’s in line for a huge upgrade. 5/80?

    • 12th man says:

      Don’t see Smith getting more than 12 mil a year in real money.

      Don’t see a new OC in the near future either. No surprise to me Roman again wasn’t selected to be a HC but mildly surprised Fangio and Tomsula weren’t chased harder.

      I do expect the passing O to be a bit more sophisticated and for Kap to have more latitude with the decisions pre and post snap. That may end up not being a good thing however, depending on his ability to process but I figure he has earned the benefit of the doubt.

      I also am looking forward to seeing what Lattimore can do. If he is as good as new and after a year of learning on the bench from one of the greatest in Gore, then Lattimore will do very well as a younger and more powerful runner. With Miller back and Gore carrying less of the load the run game should be back on track.

      The Niners O line will need to do better with their execution. I also think the OC could make it a bit easier on them by not expecting them to keep blocking 7 or 8 with 6 for instance.

  2. 12th man says:

    Not a fan of Joe Buck, or Aikman for that matter but thought this was pretty funny:
    http://www.ninersnation.com/2014/1/31/5363858/super-bowl-48-game-time-tv-schedule-announcers-joe-buck-funny-or-die-video

  3. Irish Kevin says:

    12thman, you have to be kidding. If nothing else the run game is not getting it done. This league is built to pass the ball. What the Niners need in a running back is one that can catch the ball anywhere with in 10 yards. this is the outlet Montana had in Craig. No WR open dump it to Craig. I can’t count the times Montana would dump it to Craig on the run cause the pass protection broke down. If Lattimore can catch passes that is a plus over Gore.

    • 12th man says:

      I like a pass catching RB too, but just a couple of points. Niners ranked 3rd in rushing this year the Squawks are in the SB this year and the Niners were in the SB last year exactly with a power running game and play action off it. Not sure why you think it’s not effective.

      • Irish Kevin says:

        If you are satisfied with “Just” getting there that is fine. But I think for the Niners to get to and win their passing game needs to improve

      • 12th man says:

        Why are we talking about any fan being satisfied with losing the biggest games?
        Like you I think the O passing game needs to have more oomph, but unlike you I don’t see reducing the power run game as necessary or preferred. I think most fans love the big passing game as an exciting spectacle but the plain fact is that rarely wins the big game. Great D, great special teams and a balanced ball control O is the way to win most consistently. IMO the Niners need to add layers to the passing game and give Kap a bit more responsibility. Nothing drastic, just a tweaking of the scheme here and there.

  4. Irish Kevin says:

    The pass protection has to be good enough for Kaepernick to be able to go through his reads. Kaep needs to not look at the defense so much before the snap. Call the play go through the read efficiently and the passing game will improve. is Mike Martz available.

    • 12th man says:

      I think I understand you prefer a passing attack offense with a running game playing off it?
      Niners aren’t built for that personnel wise and the coaching philosophy is power run passing off that. I don’t see that changing. At most there will be a tweaking of the O passing scheme.
      Since the Niners have been to the champ game, the SB and again the champ game it’s hard to make an argument that they should abandon what has worked well for them and go in another direction.
      Like you and every other fan I want the 6th Lombardi, what makes you think making large changes to the O scheme will achieve that?

  5. unca_chuck says:

    The problem with Gore is he WAS blocking a lot of the time. They couldn’t afford to let him release becasue the pass pro was breaking down. But they have to build that in if they want to get more pass-catrching out of Gore or Lattimore. Running a sinlge back formation puts one less guy in the box provided the replacement isn’t a TE on the line.

    For any of this to work, the team needs to get better at pass blocking.

  6. snarkk says:

    Montana was interviewed today on KNBR and repeated what he said that Kap needs to get better at pocket passing and reads, and that saying that was not a particular criticism, just reality of a young QB. Paraphasing there. I don’t think what he said is particularly news, or inflammatory. He did say on that last pass to Crabby that as QB, you have to read the field, and look for the open guy, not fix on one WR just because he initially has single coverage. Paraphrasing, but basically that’s what he said. I agree with that, too. Kap has continued to say he’d throw again to Crabby in that case, with single coverage. Trouble is, other guys were open. Saying again and again that you’d do the same thing again doesn’t mean it was right the first time. Give that play to Montana in his hayday, I’d like to see which WR he would have thrown to. Or, maybe he throws it away, knowing plenty of time and TOs left…

    • philippinefan says:

      Seems rational but what does Joe know? No really he’s spot on and ‘Kap’s stubbornness cost us a trip to the dance

  7. snarkk says:

    Our next starting center?
    At least he wasn’t packing an AR-15 or driving. Or, they caught him before either one…
    http://www.ninersnation.com/2014/1/31/5365346/daniel-kilgore-arrested-for-public-intoxication-in-small-town

  8. Nipper says:

    Seahawks will win the Super Bowl. Why? Better D and running attack. Super Bore week is about over. Whew! How tiresome. I’d rather watch Chuck paint a barn.

  9. unca_chuck says:

    At least Kilgore Trout was walking. Hate to see him end up on Tralfamador.

  10. unca_chuck says:

    Yeah, heard that the Rams owner bought some land next to Hollywood Park. Which is closing.

    • 12th man says:

      I think it’s the land that links the Forum and Hollywood Park which make a huge combined area.

  11. philippinefan says:

    BTW Chuck I’d love to see Chris Alt on board but doubt Harbaugh would be willing to yeild control of the O. Kap would love it tho. Plus Alt is said to have a prickly (abrasive) personality. Makes too much sense so wont happen. My guess.

  12. unca_chuck says:

    Yeah, that’s the sticking point. Got to wonder how the offense plays out. I really want to see a better designed passing game.

  13. NoFear49er says:

    Oh sure! When I say it I’m a hater. When Montana says it y’all pay attention! :LOL:

  14. unca_chuck says:

    Got that right . . . don’t forget Johnny Joe Idaho. . . . he’d say the same thing.

  15. barleyfreakb says:

    I am finally resurfacing after a couple of weeks of depression. This helped, courtesy of The Onion. Eat it, Petey.

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/pete-carrolls-friends-family-admit-theyd-love-to-s,35119/

  16. Dumb speculation department: Cut, trade or extend Kap? Similar to what Kawakami was hinting at few days ago. If this coming from the FO and not just reporters its got to be a negotiating ploy/psych war in advance of awarding him a big contract:

    It’s not a given that the 49ers will extend Colin Kaepernick

    http://thebayareasportsguy.com/

  17. unca_chuck says:

    Seeing as the backup is Pea Shooter they don’t have much of a choice. Trading him sets the team back at least a couple years.

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